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Toronto Buyers Club: Top 10 Most Sought After Titles at TIFF 2009

While I’m more curious about who’ll end up with Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, Rick Jacobson’s Bitch Slap, Giuseppe Tornatore epic Baaria and the only Cannes title I think that is remaining and is worth buying (Bong Joon-ho’s Mother), after scouring the entire program – I came up with a top 10 list of the high profile films should be high priorities for the buyers.

It was pandemonium at last year’s North American premiere screening for The Wrestler. Buyers had either skipped Venice or waited to gauge the crowd reaction in Toronto at the Elgin. Fox Searchlight swooped in and grabbed the rights in the 4 million dollar range. I’m predicting that there will be no shortage of such scenarios at the 09′ edition of the TIFF and I say this despite the weak economy and the exit of many players. With less art house films studio divisions in the mix, and more truly independent companies emerging into the domestic distribution sphere, I’m predicting that the volume of films bought will be just as strong as any year this past decade, however, comparatively at a less “inflated” price-tag.

While I’m more curious about who’ll end up with Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, Rick Jacobson’s Bitch Slap, Giuseppe Tornatore epic Baaria and, the only Cannes title I think that is remaining and is worth buying (Bong Joon-ho’s Mother), after scouring the entire program – I’ve come up with a top 10 list of the high profile films that should be high priorities for the buyers. Worth mentioning as an eleventh pick is Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora, which has already received its world preem at Cannes and might be sold at a discount – IMagine there might have been some nips and tucks since May. Here are the ten listed according to premiere date.

* Creation – Opening Night Film
Since its the opener, Jon Amiel’s film should have all buyers sitting in on this one. I’m betting that despite it being released in the U.K. the same month, that N-American buyers will want the title because it stirs debate and biopic formula and solid production value assures a good theatrical value. Real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly share the lead. Good for adult demos.

Perrier’s Bounty

* Perrier’s Bounty – First screening: Friday.11th 5:45 Ryerson
If this comes away looking or feeling like In Bruges, then Ian Fitzgibbon should expect some late night meetings at 4 in the morning following the screening.

The Hole – First screening: Sept.12th 3:00 Ryerson
It must say something about the film’s quality if both the Venice Film Festival and TIFF invite the 3D horror thriller. Joe Dante (GremlinsExplorers) is familiar with family-oriented stories and the horror form – this mixes both. The 3D aspect certainly adds value, while the cast is a non-factor. This should still be able to fetch some high bids from studios who already specialize in 3D releases. 

Harry Brown – First screening: Saturday.12th 6:00 Visa Screening Room Elgin
I’m not sure how much of a box office draw Michael Caine is when he goes solo, but an angry Caine in Clint Eastwood/vengeance mode could conceivably sell tickets. The festival describes Daniel Barber’s debut as a Kitchen sink film with guns.

Solitary Man – First screening: Saturday.12th 9:00 Varsity 8
After a seven-year hiatus from directing, Knockaround Guys was their debut) directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien have come up with a rom com assembled a popular cast for Mary-Louise Parker, Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon and Jenna Fischer. If buyers grab this and release it after Gordon Gecko it may be a good buy. 

Mother and Child – First screening: Monday.14th 6:30 Roy Thompsen Hall
This multi-character narrative includes Annette Bening, Sam L. Jackson, Kerry Washington and Naomi Watts. If the generational, connecting storyline pic contains some rock solid performances, then we can bank on this selling and being a more popular title than Nine Lives or Passengers

* Leaves of Grass – First screening: Monday.14th 9:00 Ryerson
Frankly I’m not sure what to expect or know how to gauge a film where we get Edward Norton times 2. Generally dark comedies are a difficult film to market, I guess this will depend on how ingenious the script turns out to be. Tim Blake Nelson as a director hasn’t had much luck at the box office – I imagine this will change with this one. 

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans – First screening: 15th 6:00 Ryerson
Werner Herzog comes to TIFF with not one, but two films up for sale and judging from the trailer – this might be one of those guilty pleasures types, whack-job films that would character to everyone except mainstream audiences. It looks like a risky title, but the payoff could be big if it is given cult-like status from the start. Nicholas Cage could help the sale.

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits – First screening: Wednesday Sept.16th 9:30 Roy Thomson Hall
With Portman in the lead, this dramedy becomes a high-value pic no matter what Don Roos does with it.

Mr.Nobody – First screening: Friday 18th – 9:00 Ryerson
Whether this sci-fi romantic fantasy pushes the limits in an overly ambitious manner, so much so that it alienates mainstream audiences, there might be enough to work with here for a genre-specific label to make waves. Plus, sci-fi films are all the talk right now. International cast of Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh-Dan Pham, Rhys Ifans could help in the long run.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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